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A recent rise in COVID-19 cases is a concern for the Blackfeet Tribal Council and they have taken action to address the increase. “There were more than a hundred new cases as of last Friday,” said Public Information Officer James McNeely on Monday, Jan. 10. The numbers prompted the Tribe to take action to return to Phase 2-Restricted Opening through Jan. 24. The restricted opening took effect immediately on Jan. 10.

According to information released by KWebb Galbreath, Blackfeet COVID -19 Incident Commander, case counts and the availability of testing is of the utmost importance and is being monitored and updated frequently in order to direct the community’s COVID-19 response and Phase Plan.

Phase 2 Restricted Opening recommends community members abide by the following instructions in an effort to reduce community spread of COVID-19, specifically addressing the highly contagious Omicron variant:

•Community members should stay in place at their primary residence and refrain from interaction between homes of extended families and friends. Exceptions will be made for childcare, eldercare and other types of essential care.

•In-person meetings are permitted for essential tribal or civic duties as long as the guidelines are in place. Video conferencing is encouraged whenever possible.

•The mask mandate is hereby reinstated in all public places.

•On-reservation travel is restricted to essentials including grocery shopping, obtaining medications and medical attention.

•No in-person gatherings, including but not limited to weddings, birthdays, sporting events no spectators, or spiritual gatherings at 50% capacity (churches).

•Funerals shall be limited to 25 people indoors as long as social distancing can be accomplished and proper sanitizing is made available. Graveside for immediate family with the advanced approval of a committee including the Safety Officer, Tribal Public Health, Incident Command.

•Do not engage in risky outdoor recreation that may strain the healthcare or emergency response systems further.

•Do not recreate with people who live outside of your immediate household.

Blackfeet Tribal Offices are closed and will reopen Jan. 25.

•All Departments will have a skeleton crew during normal business hours; the workforce shall report to Incident Command.

•Tribal Buildings shall be sanitized.

•Employees who are elderly and have underlying medical conditions to be placed on administrative leave.

•Businesses will operate at 50% capacity.

•All tribal buildings will be closed to the public; however, public services shall be provided by appointment or completed over the phone if possible.

•Swimming pool will operate at 50% capacity.

The following programs are classified as essential: BLES, Blackfeet Care Center, Child Protective Services, Covid Testing, Covid Vaccine Clinic, Crystal Creek Lodge, EMS, Fish and Game, IHS Security, Incident Command (Switchboard Operators and Tribal Security), Nurturing Center, Revenue Department, Compliance Officers, Solid Waste, Transit, Transportation, Tribal Court, Southern Piegan Health Center and BEO Water and Wastewater. Other programs may be deemed essential as determined by Incident Command.

•Curfew: 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

McNeely also noted, “We had significant snow, wind and ice. It was crazy weather last week, and we were semi-prepared for it. We encouraged people to stay off the roads, but with cold, snow and wind, it’s a mix we’re trying to deal with today - the cleanup part.”

One big problem is that of stranded motorists, noted McNeely. Responders include many agencies such as the Browning Volunteer Fire Department, Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services, EMS, Fish and Game, Search and Rescue and more. Calling for help after ignoring officials urging them to stay home puts these people needlessly at risk, reminded McNeely. “People must listen when they are warned,” he said.

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